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Pitt's Dixon won't address USC rumors

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon watches practice Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Salt Lake City.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 7:03 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Jamie Dixon declined to discuss rumors about being connected to the opening at Southern Cal on the eve of Pitt's NCAA Tournament second-round game against Wichita State. But athletic director Steve Pederson isn't worried about losing the Panthers' coach.

Dixon has been considered the Trojans' top target to replace Kevin O'Neill, who was fired at midseason. A native of North Hollywood, Calif., Dixon has long been linked to openings in the Pac-12 Conference.

“I guess it's the time of year things like that get talked about,” Dixon said Wednesday. “We don't talk about other jobs. I don't think it's the right thing to do.”

Neither Dixon nor Pederson appeared concerned that job rumors could prove to be a distraction for the No. 8 seed Panthers (24-8), who play No. 9 Wichita State (26-8) at 1:40 p.m. Thursday at Energy Solutions Arena.

Dixon said that it hasn't been an issue with his players or recruits.

“You can't keep 'em from talking about it,” Dixon said. “It's out there, written, things talked about. There are more and more blogs and writers, and it's part of college basketball. There are so many other distractions that our kids ... that we have to be concerned about. ... I think that they know the task at hand, and we can tell by their commitment and my commitment I think they're pretty sure of what's going on.”

Pederson said he's taking an approach the 10th-year coach once requested: judge by his actions not his words. Dixon previously has turned down overtures from, among others, Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon.

“Jamie's been consistent all the way along,” Pederson said. “He's been loyal to Pitt all the way along. He and I have both done this long enough to know that you can't start responding to everything.

“Nobody at our place is thinking about it or talking about it. I would venture to guess that these players are worried about Wichita State and nothing else right now. If he were an inconsistent person it would be different. But he's not. What he tells you is what he does.

“I think Jamie would tell you Pittsburgh's his hometown. He's great, and we're glad he's here.”

Pederson also dismissed talk that if Dixon were to leave, Pitt could have UCLA coach Ben Howland lined up for a return. Howland coached Pitt from 1999 to 2003 and led the Panthers to two Sweet 16 appearances.

“Ben Howland is one of my great friends, so we talk all the time, for 14 years now,” Pederson said. “That kind of stuff ... I suppose it's fun for people to write about or think about, but we're just worried about this tournament.”

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